Contamination – what is it and how can I avoid its negative impacts?
With respect to recycling, what is “contamination”? Simply stated, contaminants are materials mixed in with the curbside collection that are either not recyclable or are materials that cannot be recycled by EcoMaine (https://www.ecomaine.org), our Portland-based recycling processor.
When recyclables leave Kennebunkport, they are transported to EcoMaine where an inspector checks incoming loads and notes any contamination. When an unacceptable level of contamination is found, an extra fee is assessed on top of what Kennebunkport is already paying as a per/ton recycling cost. If contamination is high, this extra fee can double our processing costs!
Therefore we, as a community, need to become more educated regarding what is, and is not, a recycling contaminant. We must learn to be vigilant in identifying contaminants and keeping them out of our recycling containers. This means watching more closely what we recycle, talking to folks when we see something wrong, and using EcoMaine's Recyclopedia (https://www.ecomaine.org/recyclopedia/) app to help answer the question as to whether something is recyclable or a contaminant.
It is more than just keeping out non-recyclable materials, such as:
Non-recyclables that must be placed in your trash (not the recycling bin): Include such things as shoes, toasters, chainsaws, pillows, leaves and garden plants (real and fake), rope and electrical cords, half-emptied soda bottles, animal parts, etc. There is no place in their recycling stream for these materials – that’s contamination.
Some items look like they should be recyclable and may even have a recycling triangle on their label. For example:
Looks recyclable, but must be placed in your trash (not the recycling bin): These include all types of plastic bags and plastic film, oil-stained pizza boxes, Styrofoam, bubble packaging, lightly scraped peanut butter jars, visibly coated mayonnaise jars, and more (check the Recylopedia app when in doubt).